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Developing Program Level Outcomes

Developing Program Learning Outcomes

The first step in an assessment cycle is to identify the learning outcomes that should occur for each Program. A well-formulated set of Program Learning Outcomes (PLO) will describe what a faculty hopes to accomplish successfully in offering their particular degree to prospective students or what specific skills, competencies, and knowledge the faculty believes that graduates of the program will have attained by degree completion. The learning outcomes need to be concise descriptions of the impact the program will have on its students. Ask yourself the following questions when developing learning outcomes:

  • What do we want students in our program to know?
  • What do we want students to be able to do?
  • When do we want them to be able to do it?
  • Are the outcomes observable, measureable and can they be performed by students?

The Program Learning Outcomes need to link to the university’s core and experiential goals.

Relationship of Outcomes

Institutional Goals Or Drexel University Student Learning Priorities

Learning Outcome is very broad in scope. (Student achieves outcome as he/she completes degree)

Program Learning Outcome

Learning Outcome is broad in scope (Student achieves outcome as he/she completes program)

Course Learning Outcome

Learning Outcome is narrow in scope (Student achieves outcome as he/she completes course)

When creating Program Learning Outcomes please remember that the outcomes should clearly state what students will do or produce to determine and/or demonstrate their learning. Use the following learning outcomes formula:

Graduates of this program will be able to + behavior + Resulting Evidence

Listed below are a few examples from the College of Wooster of potential learning outcomes in Physics on the program level:

Upon completion of the undergraduate degree program in physics at the College of Wooster, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a proficiency in the fundamental concepts in each of the major areas of physics.
  2. Demonstrate their ability to read, understand, and critically analyze the physical ideas presented in published textbooks and journal articles.
  3. Demonstrate their ability to present information clearly, logically, and critically, both orally and in writing.
  4. Demonstrate both an understanding and the practical application of the ethical standards implicit in science, such as appropriate attribution of ideas, good recordkeeping, and truthful presentation of data and conclusions.
  5. Students will be fully prepared for graduate study in physics and/or careers in scientifically oriented jobs in the public or private sector.

Listed below are examples of potential learning outcomes in Physics on the course level:

Upon the completion of Physics 101 students will be able to:

  1. State Newton’s laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation
  2. Use vectors to describe physical observations.
  3. Define the scientific meaning of work, energy and power

Correct word usage plays an important role in the development of learning outcomes. As stated above, all learning outcomes must be specific and measurable. Learning outcomes that state, “should be able to understand …” “should be able to appreciate…” and “should be able to know…”, are too vague and lead to different interpretations of what the student’s behavior will or might be. We need to know specific outcomes that will demonstrate how students will “understand”, “appreciate” or “know”. Specific verbs such as “explain”, “appraise”, or “apply” are a better, more measurable choice. The final part of the outcome is the resulting evidence which refers to the work that students produce to demonstrate their learning such as papers, exams, presentations, performances, portfolios, lab results, etc.

Examples of solid and effective action words taken from Bloom’s earlier taxonomy that you will want to include in expected learning outcome statements are:

  • Appraise
  • Demonstrate
  • Evaluate
  • Design
  • Formulate
  • Calculate
  • Illustrate
  • Classify
  • Assess
  • Diagnose
  • Distinguish
  • Differentiate
  • Integrate
  • Construct
  • Perform
  • Rate
  • Predict
  • Determine

 

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

At Drexel University we need to know specific outcomes that will demonstrate how students will “understand”, “appreciate” or “know”. Consider referring to the following chart which illustrates Bloom’s more newly revised Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. During the late 1990's a new group of cognitive psychologists, led by Lorin Anderson (a former student of Bloom’s), updated the taxonomy to reflect relevance to 21st century work. The two graphics show the revised and original Taxonomy. Note the change from nouns to verbs associated with each level. The final part of the outcome is the resulting evidence which refers to the work that students produce to demonstrate their learning such as papers, exams, presentations, performances, portfolios, lab results, etc.

New Old

Remembering:  can  the  student recall or remember the information?

define,  duplicate,  list,  memorize,  recall,  repeat, reproduce state

Understanding: can the student explain ideas or concepts?

classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select, translate, paraphrase

Applying:  can  the  student  use the information in a new way?

choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write.

Analyzing: can the student distinguish between the different parts?

appraise, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate,  distinguish,  examine,  experiment, question, test.

Evaluating:    can    the    student justify a stand or decision?

appraise,  argue,  defend,  judge,  select,  support, value, evaluate

Creating: can the student create a new product or point of view?

assemble,     construct,    create,    design,    develop, formulate, and write.

Definitions of the different levels of thinking skills in Bloom’s taxonomy

  1. Remembering – recalling relevant terminology, specific facts, or different procedures related to information and/or course topics. At this level, a student can remember something, but may not really understand it.
  2. Understanding – the ability to grasp the meaning of information (facts, definitions, concepts, etc.) that has been presented.
  3. Applying – being able to use previously learned information in different situations or in problem solving.
  4. Analyzing – the ability to break information down into its component parts. Analysis also refers to the process of examining information in order to make conclusions regarding cause and effect, interpreting motives, making inferences, or finding evidence to support statements/arguments.
  5. Evaluating – being able to judge the value of information and/or sources of information based on personal values or opinions.
  6. Creating – the ability to creatively or uniquely apply prior knowledge and/or skills to produce new and original thoughts, ideas, processes, etc. At this level, students are involved in creating their own thoughts and ideas.
REMEMBER UNDERSTAND APPLY   ANALYZE   EVALUATE  CREATE

Count

Associate

Add

Analyze

Appraise

Categorize

Define

Compute

Apply

Arrange

Assess

Combine

Describe

Convert

Calculate

Breakdown

Compare

Compile

Draw

Defend

Change

Combine

Conclude

Compose

Identify

Discuss

Classify

Design

Contrast

Create

Label

Distinguish

Complete

Detect

Criticize

Drive

List

Estimate

Compute

Develop

Critique

Design

Match

Explain

Demonstrate

Diagram

Determine

Devise

Name

Extend

Discover

Differentiate

Grade

Explain

Outline

Extrapolate

Divide

Discriminate

Interpret

Generate

Point

Generalize

Examine

Illustrate

Judge

Group

Quote

Give examples

Graph

Infer

Justify

Integrate

Read

Infer

Interpolate

Outline

Measure

Modify

Recall

Paraphrase

Manipulate

Point out

Rank

Order

Recite

Predict

Modify

Relate

Rate

Organize

Recognize

Rewrite

Operate

Select

Support

Plan

Record

Summarize

Prepare

Separate

Test

Prescribe

Repeat

 

Produce

Subdivide

 

Propose

Reproduce

 

Show

Utilize

 

Rearrange

Select

 

Solve

 

 

Reconstruct

State

 

Subtract

 

 

Related

Write

 

Translate

 

 

Reorganize

 

 

Use

 

 

Revise

 

 

 

 

 

Rewrite

 

 

 

 

 

Summarize

 

 

 

 

 

Transform

 

 

 

 

 

Specify

Avoid Unclear Verbs

There are some verbs that are unclear in the context of an expected learning outcome statement (e.g., know, appreciate, etc.). As such, it is best to avoid using these words when you are creating an expected learning outcome statement as previously stated. For example, examine the following learning outcomes:

  • The students will understand basic human development theory.
  • The students will appreciate music from other cultures.

Both of these learning outcomes are stated in a manner that will make them difficult to assess. Consider the following:

How do you observe someone “understanding” a theory or “appreciating” other cultures? How easy will it be to measure “understanding” or “appreciation”?

These expected learning outcomes are more effectively stated in the following way:

  • The students will be able to identify and describe the major theories of human development.
  • The students will be able to identify the characteristics of music from other cultures